5 Tips To Avoid Scaring Away Top IT Talent

Stop scaring away your tech talent

As college graduates enter the workforce, companies will be clamoring to get the best and brightest talent in the door. But making a mistake in the interviewing process isn't just something candidates have to worry about -- companies need to make sure they're just as prepared to interview these star recruits.

Here are five tips from Adam Ochstein, founder and CEO of StratEx -- a Chicago-based firm that provides human resource services and software -- to make sure you don't scare away the people you want to hire

The interview process is too tedious. Companies understandably want their top talent coming out of school to be ready for a challenge, but you want to be careful how far you push them in the interview process. While having a candidate come in for a couple rounds of interviews is typical, you also need to be considerate of their time. And when it comes to asking them to showcase their skills, be mindful of what you throw at them. You want to find a good balance between challenging and cumbersome if you want to land the best talent. Don't be afraid to push your candidates, but also be aware when you might be wasting their time unnecessarily.

"Top talent wants to be challenged, they aren't going to take a job if they aren't challenged -- that's what makes them good at their job, they're always looking for a challenge," says Ochstein. He adds that a rigorous interview process is great for acquiring the best of the best, because you definitely want to hire people who are invested in the job and excited for the challenge. But be careful not to push them too far with projects that aren't relevant to the job, or by making them jump through hoops that feel useless. "If the steps they have to do in the interview process are silly, aren't applicable to what they're going to be doing in the position or aren't highlighting or accentuating their talents, then they're going to find it nonsensical and feel like you're wasting their time," says Ochstein.

The interview process is too easy. While you don't want to make the interview process too long or tedious, you also don't want it to seem too easy or rushed. As mentioned, your top talent will want a challenge, and if the process doesn't push them a little, then they probably assume the role won't push them either. According to Ochstein, having a fast or rushed interview process can also make you look a little desperate, which will quickly turn off top talent who are interested in working for the best companies. Chances are, if they're that good, they're being courted by a number of other companies that -- at least form the candidate's perspective -- are investing more into the interview process.

According to Ochstein, "top talent always wants to go to a place that's desirable and hard to get." Finding that balance between too intensive an interview process and one that's too easy shouldn't be too difficult. "I've always believed successful interviews should consist of a series of challenges that make someone jump through hoops, because the good people are going to be excited on their ability to overcome those challenges," says Ochstein.

You try to paint a rosy picture. Your future employees can find out a lot about your company before they even set a foot inside the door for an interview. Any job seeker that knows their way around Twitter, Glassdoor or LinkedIn can quickly find out "the good, the bad and the ugly" about your company, says Ochstein. And that means you should absolutely have a social presence, even if you don't feel your company needs it. This is where your new hires are going to vet the company before they come in to interview, and if they can't find anything, they might overlook you entirely, says Ochstein.

But make sure you aren't overselling the positives while sweeping the negatives under the rug. Every company has its dirty laundry, and it's far too easy for someone to figure that out via social media. "There's no such thing as a perfect place. We become imperfectly perfect for the right person, so let them have no surprises once they start," says Ochstein. And it works both ways he points out, "We don't want any surprises on them and they shouldn't find out any surprises about us." Be upfront and honest and make sure your company has a social presence, it's justone small step that will help you land the talent you want.

Trying to create unrealistic changes. Everyone hears the stories of the Silicon Valley startups riddled with twenty-somethings playing foosball on the clock and hitting up the keg in the breakroom. But just because some companies have adopted a lax attitude towards professionalism, that doesn't mean it's the right path for every company. Hiring the new top talent doesn't mean putting a foosball table in the lobby or tossing a margarita machine in the kitchen. In fact, this can come off as trying too hard or as inauthentic, especially if it doesn't fit with the overall culture of the business.

If your company tries to radically change the internal culture just to please top candidates, "it's going to hurt you in the long run," says Ochstein. He says it's important as a company to, "be true to yourself and your culture -- and that [culture] is usually going to emanate from corner offices." While it's a good idea for a company to grow and change over the years, you don't want to alienate your current employees with radical culture changes that are designed for new candidates. Stick to your guns, highlight your strengths as a company and try to fix your weaknesses and that will speak volumes to any job seeker you interview.

You don't learn from the past. If you find top talent keeps slipping through your fingers, you might need to step back and reevaluate your hiring process. One way to review the interview process to make it a better experience for candidates is by actually talking to past recruits that turned you down.

Ochstein recommends reaching out to candidates who didn't take an offer by assuring them you aren't trying to hire them again, but just that you want to talk about their experience. If they agree, ask them what the company could have done differently and for their honest opinion about the interview. By figuring out what made them choose another company over yours can shed some light on what needs to change in the process, if anything. It's also a great way to get an objective view, since that person is less likely to worry about saying something nice simply because you're their employer.

If you can't get any past candidates to talk to you, go internal. You can always ask the people who currently work for the company what they did and didn't like about the interview process. They might not be as honest as someone who doesn't work for you, but hopefully they can give some helpful feedback. Alternatively, if you have recruiters, says Ochstein, you can even get them involved or hire a consultant to evaluate the process.

Dec 2015

By: Terry Mott